Count how many times you pull at your horse on any given day. I mean, really count. Some days it’s a lot, if we’re being honest. Whether we’re on the ground with our horse or riding, how much does your poor horse’s head get yanked around? And sometimes, it’s kind of amazing that it gets results, if it does, given the size and weight of a horse. Pulling it into a trailer? Yanking it back, to get it to slow down, pulling it toward something it’s not so sure if it should be scared of.
I started taking riding lessons on Saturday. Or I should say horsemanship lessons. It’s at a barn that is very ‘natural’. I guess that’s a loaded word, but the barn is very aware of the horse first, though the human is important too. The horse I will be riding is named Buddy. He’s a rescued quarterhorse. Very gentle with a rider in the arena, or on trail, a very calm guy, except he hates having his head and upper neck (or poll) touched. And this barn is very respectful of that fear – the fear that he has of being hurt because he has been hurt – we don’t know how but someone or something hurt his head badly.
So, this horse never gets pulled. Actually no horse in a lesson at this barn gets pulled or yanked on. When leading a horse they use the end of the lead rope to tell a horse if it’s going too fast. If a horse walks too fast, they teach to use the end of the rope in a propellor type fashion in front of the horse’s face, to say ‘slow down’ or ‘back up’. If the horse won’t go, they direct the horse with one hand and body pointed in the direction you want it to go, and use the end as a propellor again, aimed toward the horse’s shoulder. These are both gentle actions, not meant to touch the horse except maybe gently if needed.
It turns out leading a horse to water is about a lot more than merely getting it to drink.